The Republican Scandal Extravaganza

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So here we are, right in the direct path of the Republican scandal extravaganza, which we have known was coming. They were just waiting until fall, but they couldn’t quite wait because when the FBI released that last batch of approximately 15,000 emails it was a sign. This is it! They signaled the Trump campaign, which just in a nick of time is headed by the formidable Kellyanne Conway. Let’s make this an all-out effort to fatally damage Hillary Clinton, they telegraphed. And the Republicans have plenty of help with all of the members of the press piling on too. There are plenty of ratings to be made folks. There has to be something really damning in those emails. There just has to be. That charity cannot just exist for humanitarian reasons. The Clintons are too greedy for that. Let’s impeach those humanitarian emailers before they even get into the White House this time.

The press is in a frenzy. The AP got in on the act. They checked Hillary’s State Department calendar and she had meetings with lots of people who gave to the Clinton Foundation. Never mind that there are only so many nations on the planet and that almost all of them meet from time to time with the State Department. We smell nefarious favors being doled out by the millions. The Clinton Foundation takes money from nations with terrible records on human rights. OMG! Who needs to salve their conscience more than an authoritarian nation, and who doesn’t like to have help with their nation’s poorest citizens. If a nation will not contribute doesn’t that brand them as villainous?

How does a skeevy guy like Donald Trump get to pass judgment, with the whole power of a major political party behind him, on anyone? Here is someone who we know scammed others for profits which lined his own pockets. Now he gets to go on TV and act holier-than-thou? That’s just wrong. And if the Republican Party and Donald Trump (under the watchful eye of Ms. Conway) manage to tarnish Hillary beyond electability only Donald Trump will be left, assuming we are still not ready to elect someone from the Libertarian Party or the Green Party. The Republicans are great strategists and have planned this well and timed it right to do maximum damage very close to the November election. Doesn’t it bother anyone that it reeks of mudslinging politics? I do not buy that the Clinton Foundation did anything illegal. I trust, and I am using that word deliberately, that they were busy setting up programs that helped people around the world lift themselves up and feel pride at their accomplishments.

American Economy/Bring Back Our Jobs

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Don’t Ask For What You Want, Because You Might Get It

For the past eight years and longer Republicans have pined for “smaller” government and have promised that if we use a “trickle-down” approach to the American economy, cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and endure a few years of austerity the economy will come roaring back. Republicans have held the economy in place for both Obama terms and I don’t think anyone is experiencing a roaring economic upturn. Job growth has been slow and steady, economic growth has been somewhat stagnant. Along comes Donald Trump who promises that he will bring back our jobs that America lost by bringing back the corporations that offered us those jobs.

But what I see whenever I hear this nonsense for the umpteenth time is Republican double-speak covering over the America we will actually have to become in order to bring back those jobs that everyone seems to mourn the loss of. What I see is the possibility of much lower salaries, non-existent or powerless labor unions, a lower standard of living, and employees who work whatever hours the corporations require with few, if any benefits. The corporations will demand much more control over their “own affairs” which will entail drastic deregulation, which Republicans also favor.

The GOP believes (or pretends to believe) that unfettering capitalism will bring an astounding renewal of our economy like the first great flowering of industry at the turn of the 20th century. The Tea Party folks who demand, out of some kind of misplaced nostalgia, that those jobs must be returned to America are not really facing the facts that the old reality can never be reproduced and the new reality may not match their expectations.

What we might get is some kind of “bizarro” America that I (and others) call the Corporate States of America and it answers the demands of an alliance of some pretty strange bedfellows. The Tea Party (which includes truckers, displaced workers, farmers, and rural-garage talk-show lovers), and Big Business have a lot in common these days (sort of in the same way that buffalo and wolves have a lot in common). The Republican Party is the body pillow between the corporations (Big Business) on one side of this big bed and the conspiracy theory lovers (The Tea Party) on the other side. Donald Trump is snuggled up in there somewhere (you decide where). These three groups have one main thing that puts them together in that very small sector at the center of a Venn diagram of that bed. They all want a federal government that is smaller in three ways:

  1. Lower taxes or no taxes
  2. Fewer services or no services
  3. Fewer rules or no rules

This unholy marriage has been arranged by right wing media and the Tea Party and it could be sanctified through a sweep by the Republican Party in the 2014 midterms (done) and the 2016 Presidential election (on its way). Then we could find ourselves living in the Corporate States of America. Perhaps we will pledge allegiance to and sing that new anthem of unfettered Capitalism “from sea to fracking sea”. I’m guessing that most of us will hold a permanent role in the poorly paid worker class that will finally allow America to once again be the number one manufacturer in the world. The only problem is that we will no longer be America. That’s one of my most nightmarish visions for a “bizarro” America that we could belong to in the near future.

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Don’t Wish for What You Don’t Want, Because You Might Get It

Actually, keeping that creepy bed in mind you really need to think about whether or not we want our corporations to come back at all. They cannot realistically make the move unless we drastically reduce the standard of living in America. And while you may think bucks are a bit thin on the ground right now, our economy would have to go much lower before these companies will come “home”. Here are some of the wages employees make in China, Southeast Asia, and Mexico:

China

Since 2001, the United States has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs to China — that despite U.S. factory workers being far more productive.

Partly, it can be explained by China’s cheaper workers: The average hourly wage for Chinese manufacturing workers is less than a tenth that of their average U.S. counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It being about twice as cheap to live in China, those lower Chinese wages go further. But Chinese factory workers also tend to work longer hours, making them more appealing to some employers

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/average-cost-factory-worker_n_1327413.html

Southeast Asia

Comparative Wages in Selected Countries
July 29, 2016

 

Country/City Daily Minimum Wages Monthly Wage Exchange Rate
Per US$1*
In Country Currency In US$ In Country Currency In US$
Bangladesh (Taka) 176.67 b/ 2.21 5,300.00 1/ 66.42 79.7982
Myanmar (Kyat) 3,600.00 a/ 2.99 108,000.00 2/ 89.63 1,204.9700
Mongolia (Tugrik) 6,400.00 a/ 3.11 192,000.00 3/ 93.20 2,060.0000
Lao PDR (Kip) 30,000.00 a/ 3.65 900,000.00
4/
109.38 8,228.3900
Pakistan
(Rupee)
333.33-400.00
a/
3.16-3.79 10,000.00-12,000.00
5/
94.86-113.83 105.4230
Cambodia
(Cambodian Riel)
18,666.67
a/
4.67 560,000.00
6/
140.00 4,000.0000
Vietnam
(Dong)
80,000.00 – 116,666.67
a/
3.55- 5.18 2,400,000.00 -3,500,000.00
7/
106.54-155.37 22,527.5000
Indonesia
(Rupiah)
36,666.67 – 103,333.33
a/
2.80- 7.88 1,100,000.00 -3,100,000.00
8/
83.93-236.53 13,106.2000
Philippines/XI-A(Peso)  317..00
9/
6.72 9,510.00
b/
201.56 47.1823
Philippines/VII
(Peso)
295.00- 353.00
10/
6.25-7.48 8,850.00 -10,590.00
b/
187.57- 224.45 47.1823
Philippines/III
(Peso)
313.00- 357.00
11/
6.63-7.71 9,390.00 -10,920.00
b/
200.42- 233.07 47.1823
Malaysia
(Ringgit)
26.67 -30.00
12/
6.57- 7.39 800.00 -900.00 199.02-231.44 4.0614
Philippines/IV-A(Peso)  267.00-362.50
13/
6.04-8.02 8,010.00 -10,875.00
b/
181.21-240.66 47.1823
Thailand/Bangkok
(Baht)
300.00
14/
8.59 9,000.00
b/
257.61 34.9369
China
(Yuan Renminbi)
27.67 – 60.27
a/
4.15 -9.11 830.00 -1,820.00
15/
124.61-273.24 6.6607
Philippines/NCR (Peso) 444.00-481.00
16/
9.62-10.41 13,320.00-14,430.00
b/
288.67-312.19 47.1823
Taiwan
(Taiwan Dollar)
920.00
17/
28.77 27,600.00
b/
863.19 31.9745
Hongkong
($HK)
260.00
a/
33.52 7,800.00
18/
1,005.61 7.7565
South Korea
(Won)
44,640.00
19/
39.57 1,339,200.00
b/
1,187.20 1,128.0300
Japan
(Japan Yen)
5,424.00 – 7,280.00
20/
51.69-69.37 162,720.00 – 218,400.00
b/
1,550.56-2,081.13 104.9430
New Zealand
(New Zealand Dollar)
94.40 – 118.00
21/
66.91-83.64 2,832.00 – 3,540.00
b/
2,007.37-2,509.21 1.4108
Australia
(Australian Dollar)
138.32
a/
103.96 4,149.60
22/
3,118.83 1.3305

 

http://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/pages/statistics/stat_comparative.html

Mexico

Manufacturing average income – in pesos $551 per month, $353 in dollars

http://www.worldsalaries.org/mexico.shtml

http://www.businessinsider.com/mexicans-get-paid-less-for-their-work-than-any-other-developed-country-2015-7

Overall list

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country

Clearly if the cost of living in America stayed where it is now these wages would never support individuals or families. If the cost of things fell dramatically in order to match up with the wages what would America look like then? Would it look like the 1950’s when my father was able to barely support 10 people with $10,000/year? The wages we are talking about don’t even get us the 50’s back. Would we look like a more medieval culture with the very poor essentially in serfdom to the very rich? Are you sure you want your jobs back?

We haven’t even talked about the pollution our beloved factories left behind, both the stuff they told us about and the hidden wastes they never remembered to mention. We could have the smog that hung over our cities although I doubt that is something any of us have missed. There are valid things that we really do miss without our factories and the corporations they made things for, but I am starting to picture a viable future economy, however slowly it is emerging, without them. When Donald Trump promises to bring back our jobs, obviously that does not sound quite as positive to me as it does to some of you.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

(This article appears on my website https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/ in a more rudimentary form. Look in the archives dated 4/17/2014.)

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters – Book

Underground Airlines

Ben H. Winters captured my heart and broke it when he wrote The Last Policeman trilogy. I’m not sure how he did that but in my review of World of Trouble I put it down to the magic of good writing. Mr. Winters writes science-fiction with an apocalyptic edge. His newest offering, Underground Airlines, is in the same vein. One of the best reasons to write science fiction is that it allows you to include lots of social commentary without being pedantic. Instead you get to exercise your most flighty imaginings and then ground them in our present day human dilemmas.

Winters imagines that America never actually fought the Civil War to free the slaves. He proposes a parallel America where a compromise ended the war before it began. In this compromise, four US states were allowed to keep their slaves and to continue to use them in a variety of industries. These industries conduct their business in secure compounds surrounded with electrified fences and guards and security cameras. In the North, above and around these four Southern states, there are many free black folks, who are not as free as you would like them to be (sound familiar?). Since Northern officials assume that any one of them could be a runaway from a Southern business plantation they are subject to random stops. Their paperwork must be in order and with them at all times. Many free folks live in the poorest parts of the largest cities in areas that are all known by the same name, Freedman Towns. In these days many years after the compromise was made law the only thriving economies are the Four Slave States.

Jim Dirkson (not his real name), a black man who was once a slave, has been caught and turned into a bounty hunter. A chip implanted by the US Marshals insures that he can be forced to catch runaway slaves and return them to the “plantations” that own them. He has learned to appreciate the small pleasures that come with his very limited freedom and to tuck away the nagging of his conscience, which makes sense considering that he has no choice at all about what he must do. He is in Indianapolis on an ordinary case to catch a runaway named Jackdaw. However, on closer examination of Jackdaw’s file the case appears to be anything but ordinary. Martha, a young white woman with a mixed race child has her own reasons for joining Jim to solve the mystery of Jackdaw.

This may be a parallel America experiencing a divergent future; the fact is, though, that this slave-holding America, sadly, has much in common with our version of America which has supposedly chosen to abolish slavery and in which all men (and women) should be equal. We know that we have doled out freedom to Americans of African Descent quite grudgingly. Winters hits us with an alternate reality that (almost) might as well be our actual reality. Will any amount of excoriation and guilt teach us to look for ways to tackle the issues in our inner cities that function as race and poverty traps? Will we finally find ways to get people the things they need to live productive lives which promise a comfortable future? You won’t find the answer in Underground Airlines, but you will find that an exaggeration of our actual social conditions might get you thinking.

What was different about the escape of Jackdaw? Why was his folder so different from the others that Jim had been assigned? Where is Jackdaw now? What are the Southern States up to now? Ben H. Winters doesn’t forget to pursue his case once again, just as his Last Policeman did not give up even in the face of apocalypse. This novel did not quite break my heart the way the trilogy did, although eventually the fictional outcome could possibly be just as awful. Perhaps it is because the conditions in the America we already occupy have done the deed already. Still, I must say that I really connect with the stories that Mr. Winters has to tell.

 

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub – Book

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Literature right now is looking at families and, just lately a surprising number of these families live in New York City. Perhaps it is because diversity has long been tolerated by sophisticated New Yorkers. Perhaps it is the desire, held in abeyance by many of us, to live in New York City for at least a while. Maybe it is because, somehow, raising a family in New York City, seems both better than raising a family elsewhere because of the pace of the city and all the cultural options that families can sample, and more problematic because it denies children more bucolic pleasures. Unless you have money it is probably quite difficult to raise a family in this particular American city. However, when you are the author of a book your fictional family can be as rich as you like and thus the whole NYC fantasy can play out. Despite the stimulating and expensive surroundings it is still possible to make points about modern life that resonate universally, so an author can have their cake and eat it too.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is just such a novel. We meet three people who met each other in college. They were in a band together and were quite popular at local college parties and bars. They wore gothic attire and managed to sound better than they actually were. A fourth band member, Lydia, who became very famous, died in an OD at the age of 27. Two band members, Elizabeth and Andrew married. Elizabeth is a real estate agent, Andrew, who inherited money, is a man who drifts from interest to interest. They have a son Harry, who is studying for his SAT’s. Zoe, the other band member, apparently so beautiful and lively that people are always falling in love with her, is married to Jane, a chef with her own successful restaurant. They all once shared a house in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn. Zoe and Jane have a daughter, Ruby, also preparing for her SAT’s. The college band is being resurrected in memory as a result of a decision that must be made.

This is a slice of life novel, although not in a strict sense since we do hear the backstory. Each couple is at a point of crisis in their relationship. Each couple must decide whether to remain together or to separate. Harry and Rudy, ditching their SAT Prep course also have things to work out both together and separately. Does it make any difference that one couple is made up of a man and woman and the other couple is made up of two women? That’s what is refreshing about this novel. We see two marriages and two families, but the difficulties and challenges each couple faces could occur in any relationship. This is lighter than you would think based on the subject matter, perhaps even a bit superficial, and perhaps the ending is a bit abrupt with too little detail about the outcomes for each character, but this is still an enjoyable book with engaging characters.

Gary Johnson /Libertarian – From the Cheap Seats

 

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Gary Johnson, a Libertarian is running for President in 2016. Although he would never be my choice, as an option to Donald Trump he seems like a stellar choice for Conservatives and I am surprised that more Republicans have not jumped on board. Except for the fact that he thinks we should legalize drugs, especially marijuana, to end the War on Drugs and that we should treat drugs use as an illness, not a criminal act, his platform seems as if it is right out of the Republican playbook

Gary Johnson spent two terms as the Governor of New Mexico and he managed to leave New Mexico with a million dollar surplus although he had to slash and burn to do it. He is a small government guy. He wants to close the Department of Education and HUD immediately if he wins the election. He is in favor of letting the states deal with most social programs on their own and he favors vouchers for schooling and privatizing prisons.

He believes in low taxes which is good because by the time he has finished cutting budget items he doesn’t need all that revenue. He used the veto 200 times in his first six months in office (Wiki) and has been called “Veto Johnson” and “Governor Veto” (Wiki). He was considered a good governor in New Mexico although some of his more controversial ideas did not fly. “Johnson’s accomplishments in office were described as follows: “no tax increases in six years, a major road building program, shifting Medicaid to managed care, constructing two new private prisons, canning 1,200 state employees, and vetoing a record number of bills. He really became popular for his handling of the disastrous Cerro Grande Fire.

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You can find a list of his statements on important Presidential issues at

http://www.ontheissues.org/Gary_Johnson.htm

To summarize, here are just a few of the stands he has taken, stated in his own words:

On abortion his most recent stand was “don’t require insurers to provide birth control, May 2012”;

On economics he states “National debt approaching $20 trillion is bankrupting us, Jan. 2016” and “No bank bailout; no farm subsidies; no stimulus, May, 2012”, “Cut federal budget by 43% to bring it into balance, Feb. 2012, “End the Fed; they’ve devalued the dollar by printing money, May, 2011”

Where have I heard these cold-hearted judgments based on an economic point of view that is not shared by all economists? Republicans say these things incessantly – they say them as if they become truer with repetition. Yes, Mr. Johnson left New Mexico with a 1 million dollar surplus, but why? How does having money sitting in a government account help the people? How did almost shutting down the New Mexico state government to attempt to extort acceptance of school vouchers help the people?

Johnson is against the Affordable Care Plan, says that “government managed healthcare is insanity”, says “ObamaCare is unconstitutional; so is Bush’s Medicare Rx plan” and these are obviously statements that warm the cockles of many a heart on the right. He does however, want to “let the Patriot Act expire” and he says, “the Founding Fathers would be disgusted about spying on Citizens”, which might not go over quite as well with Conservatives.

Some quotes on War and Peace:

  • We are no safer after years of failed nation-building abroad. (Jan 2016)
  • Afghan nation-building will fail; withdraw immediately. (Aug 2012)
  • Cut all support and aid to Israel. (May 2012)
  • No military threat from Iraq, Afghanistan, nor Libya. (Aug 2011)
  • Iran is not currently a military threat. (Aug 2011)
  • Let Israel deal with Iranian nukes; not US role to tell them. (Aug 2011)
  • Absolutely would not have gone into Libya; get out now. (Jul 2011)
  • We wiped out al Qaeda 10 years ago; leave Afghanistan. (Jun 2011)
  • No threat from Libya; so no authority to topple dictator. (Jun 2011)
  • Afghan War initially warranted, but not for 10 years. (May 2011)
  • Military surveillance should discover WMD before invasion. (May 2011)
  • I opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. (May 2011)
  • No Afghan timetable; start tomorrow & finish in a few months. (May 2011)
  • Eliminate ineffective interventions in Iraq & Afghanistan. (May 2011)

These stands are more purely Libertarian and might be tough to swallow for some Republicans.

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All in all Gary Johnson has much more in common with Republicans and the right than he does with any Democrats and his economic policies would be real deal breakers for voters seeking an alternative to Hillary Clinton, but not so much to voters looking to ditch Donald Trump. Although I don’t even like to think about having a Libertarian in the White House, given the nonsense that Grover Norquist, another Libertarian, has caused with his well-enforced pledge against raising taxes, I favor having more than two parties involved in America elections and I favor it even more in times like these when there is such an enormous partisan divide.

Kill Hillary?..the Fight for Women’s Rights

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The battles women have fought for their rights have been many and fierce. There is a museum exhibit that has a table set with 39 plates for women who got a seat at the table through stubborn will and tenacious intelligence. There are 999 names on the white tile floor below the table of women who contributed much but did not quite win a coveted seat.

There is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY to commemorate the first Women’s Rights Convention held there in July, 1848 and to honor the women who courted cultural disdain and ostracism to fight the surprisingly long battle to get men to accept women as equals.

There is no part of our original Constitution or our Bill of Rights that acknowledged females as people and there is no language that denies that women are people. It was not unprecedented in Europe to have Queens, but it was usually treated as sort of an aberration and Queens were almost forced to marry, except in the famous case of Elizabeth II in England. Men in early America did not even consider giving women the right to vote and women did not think to petition for it. Culturally men ruled the roost when the Constitution was written.

Women Suffragettes won the vote in a sort of a mash up with the Prohibition ladies in 1919 and the Constitution was amended to include the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in 1920. Now it is the 21st century and we have still never elected a woman to our highest office and women are sadly underrepresented in Congress. Wouldn’t it be fine to have a woman President when this amendment celebrated its one hundredth anniversary?

womens rights, seneca falls big

As I watch the media pile hypothetical sin after hypothetical sin onto Hillary Clinton who is running to be our President in 2016 I can’t help but think that this is the last gasp of men grasping to hang on to power, which men are not even losing, only sharing.

MSNBC has some of the worst Hillary bashers, although these men could not actually want Trump to be President. Joe Scarborough, Mark Halperin who has even joined Scarborough on Morning Joe lately, Chuck Todd, and their many male guests go on and on about Hillary’s “unfavorable” like members of a gossipy 50’s coffee klatch full of mean girls.

Even when Donald Trump (who knows very well that Hillary has no plans to change the 2nd Amendment in any way) dog whistles (loudly) to the NRA and the 2nd Amendment people – people whose first thought in a fight is perhaps to vote with a gun – and uses a deliberately veiled reference that could be construed as an invitation to assassination, the equivocation begins almost immediately. Never mind that these could be the same militia people who were prepared to start a war on behalf of a rancher who was cheating by grazing his cows on government land without paying the rather reasonable fees. Donald Trump knows that there are mentally ill people out there who would delight in killing Hillary, or, in fact, anyone Trump fingered; so do the news people who have now turned on Hillary Clinton (to escape the wrath of the Donald?).

Hillary has been smeared with so much mud by all these men that we may never know if any of it is real. These men spent the entire day after Donald Trump threw out his off the cuff threat arguing that he did not know what he was saying and that he was trying to be funny. Well I have a hypothetical for all Trump’s defenders. He did not phrase his remarks the way he did by accident; they were in fact carefully crafted to walk the legal line and be deniable in future conversations. They were designed to make his followers swoon once again at Donald’s audacity and to elicit the twisted admiration that he loves to bask in.

Yesterday the top story shifted so quickly to the unproven scandal of the supposed pay for play activities of the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State that I got whiplash. Today we are deep into Hillary bashing and repeating Donald’s excuses which somehow always allows him to repeat the jabs he has recently been most proud of pulling off. No matter what Hillary has or hasn’t done it can’t be as poisonous as what these folks are doing. Mayor Giuliani, shame on you.

So men are obviously not ready for a female President and women are back in this place where we have another fight on our hands and we have been fighting this particular battle for the past eight years in one way or another. The war on women in which Republicans tried to fight against women’s freedom to control their own bodies and their own reproductive rights was often a fight about the beliefs of some men that the world was a better place when women were submissive and when they stayed at home. Women’s pursuit of satisfying careers ruined the nuclear family, or so these men believe, and all manner of cultural evils have ensued, so if we put women back in the kitchen these disruptive cultural trends will go away and there will be peace in the land forever and ever. There are men who fervently believe this stuff and they do not want Hillary Clinton, or indeed, any woman to be the President of the United States.

While women would like to win something without a pitched battle and tons of mental and social angst that is not what is going to happen in the 2016 election. It is as fraught a moment as any instance of cultural change and rather than dancing and toasting with champagne we will obviously be slogging through mud right to the bitter end.

 

Jill Stein, Too Far Out for America

peace

Jill Stein is sort of groovy in some ways. I agree with her that fracking should be banned. There is a real connection between environmental factors and human health. I remember Love Canal. Stein is a medical doctor with degrees from Harvard. She was an internist for 25 years and she taught future doctors at Harvard Medical School. She fought the industries in her state that ran by burning coal because the pollution was so harmful to living things. She stands up for the things she believes and she has earned some praise for her passion.

However, Jill Stein is sort of far out in other ways, literally way out there in terms of her backing for some discredited causes. In fact I have heard that some call her the Ben Carson of the left. She has given some support to the anti-vax movement by refusing to give her unequivocal acceptance of scientific studies that show no connection between vaccines and autism. Some people who are against vaccinating their children are now arguing that the scheduling of these vaccines is the variable that has contributed to the rise in autism in America. Jill Stein does not say anything to rule this out. It is dangerous when there are 7 billion+ people on the planet. What we definitely do not need is an outbreak of smallpox.

Stein is also against GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and many others in the forefront of the stay-healthy-eat-pure-hike-kayak-and-bike-and –you-can-live-forever crowd are with her on this. There is nothing really wrong with being anti-GMO although so far no truly harmful effects have been found. Many on the “hippie” fringes of the left believe that messing with Mother Nature always comes back to bite us in the butt. Partnering with this passion is Stein’s support for the argument that nicotine based fertilizers are killing our honey bees. In an article in Slate magazine correspondent Jordan Weissmann, says that most evidence suggests that our bees are doing just fine. However you feel about these matters, these issues are still a bit “out there” as part of a Presidential agenda.

Mrs. Stein has tacked a few new concerns on to her environmental agenda which are a better fit to a broader Presidential agenda but which could also qualify as pandering. She has promised to have the government pay off all student debt using the same mysterious economic trick that was given the title of “quantitative easing” when it was used to buy up bad mortgages and bail out the banks. She is really steamed about what she sees as a con which used a mathematical sounding term to cover up what amounted to a theft of taxpayer money. She shows us how clever and witty she is by creating the term “misleaders” to talk about our government officials and the Fed (which she would reform within an inch of its life). She often also backs reparations for Americans of African Descent, a very controversial piece of pandering which may or may not ever happen.

Jill Stein (picture her with a headband or a chain of flowers in her hair) wants to cut the military budget by 50% and close 700 military bases (picture her chaining herself to a fence near the Pentagon surrounded by angry Republicans and bewildered Democrats). That would certainly buy us a lot of student debt, although my nieces who just finished paying off their loans might be a bit ticked off. It also appeals to my hope for a future that has far more peace than war in it. But it flies in the face of the evidence we can find throughout human history that we are a contentious species and not quite ready to begin the thousand years of peaceful coexistence we would like to see stretching ahead of us.

John Lennon probably would have been a fan of Jill Stein and I am a huge fan of John Lennon, although I can’t imagine having him as our President and I cannot see us electing someone as “airy fairy” as Jill Stein either, although I hope she continues to shake her tambourine and fight the good fight at the intersection of the environment and the health of our planet. Even the anti-war stuff is beneficial, but certainly not Presidential. I cannot see the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, getting much more than the 3% of the vote that she is currently getting.

Here are two of the sources I used to learn more about Jill Stein:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/07/27/jill_stein_is_not_the_savior_the_left_is_looking_for.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jill_Stein

 

Examining Republican Myths

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The Economy

Why are we still hearing the whine of Republicans like gnats buzzing our brains by way of our ears, saying things like they do not dare let Democrats get their hands on the economy and that they might be able to cast an extremely reluctant vote for Hillary if she moderates her agenda for the economy? I seem to recall that the Republicans were in office when this country went into the Great American Recession in 2008. I keep thinking (don’t you) that it was lack of regulation on banks and investment firms that created a housing bubble which was destined to burst and do real damage to millions of Americans. I have, with many other middle class Americans, waited for some of that “trickle down” to get into my bank account but that hasn’t happened. We have examined these Republicans myths many times.

So, my question is, why do Republicans still think that they should be put in charge of the American economy? Why do they think that the same policies that tanked the American economy are what we need to set it right? These are the same Republicans who obstructed the Obama administration so much that he was never really allowed to stimulate the economy as much as he would have liked and who then want to use the slow recovery meme against the Democrats in the 2016 election. I guess they think we have very short memories, or that they are so popular (or that their media brainwashing has been so effective) that the truth does not matter.

Thomas Friedman, who leans right, wrote about this in yesterday’s New York Times. He cites Hillary Clinton’s progressive agenda as being anti-business and he suggests that her policies will discourage, rather than encourage investment and innovation. Although Hillary may not have been addressing business interests lately, she knows that this country’s engine of growth is business, employment and a spirit of invention that keeps us striving to break new ground. He makes it sound as if she will replace industry with infrastructure, private with public, but she is not advocating any such dichotomy. She is saying that improvements in infrastructure will boost employment, but will also push economic growth and make it easier and less expensive to do business in America.

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Foreign Affairs

I also keep hearing a chorus, sort of like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, softly chanting a refrain that tells us the heroic tale of the mighty Republicans who are much better at foreign affairs and winning battles than those dumb Democrats who seem to think that we can rely on diplomacy, alliances, and hit and run soldiering. In this version of the Republican myths they blame the Democrats, especially Hillary, for the chaos in Libya and they tell us that Obama and Hillary are to blame for the upheavals in the entire Middle East as if we have already forgotten who took the lid off the pot in Iraq (43). As if the internet played no part in the events of the turn of this century.

They are caught in a narrative that suggests that complex world events have simple causes. According to Republicans people can’t cause climate change, but one person, acting on his/her own can topple empires and create global political chaos with well-intentioned but clumsy advice. Yes Obama backed off from the “red line” in Syria, but where would we be right now if he didn’t? I suppose in GOP-world we would be shut of Assad, the Syrian people would not be flooding Europe (so that their children can have some quality to their lives), and there would be no ISIS. But this is all hypothetical and we might just be stuck sending our sons and daughters into a situation that is still in flux and cannot be solved with powerful rifles and dead soldiers.

They insist that ISIS would not exist if Obama had never brought the troops home from Iraq and the rest of us insist that ISIS would not exist if Bush had never sent our troops to Iraq. By artificially speeding up an awakening that probably was inevitable but perhaps not quite so imminent chaos was loosed on the world in the sense of the conflicting sects of a religion that we once saw as monolithic but which was not, in the sense of how the Islamic religion, which has been left in a peaceful-seeming equilibrium will eventually either temper its fundamentalism with modern secularism or will wall itself off in an ecstasy of purity and either turn its back on the rest of us or force our foreheads to the floor. I think Bush would have done better by all of us if he had gone directly to Afghanistan and left Iraq alone, although the taunting of Saddam Hussein was hard to ignore. Once the Middle East awakened to the 21st century, some Muslims with disgust, some with interest, the changes we are experiencing there were probably inevitable.

The GOP shows no more prescience or military brilliance when faced with our current dilemmas than the Democrats and, in fact, because they do not like to approach the problems we face with any delicacy, their desire to stomp around using the dusty boots of America’s children, and their bombast would actually be harmful. Many people believe that Hillary Clinton is too hawkish to conduct our foreign affairs in these combustible times, but I like to think that Hillary is unlikely to turn Obama’s foreign policy approach aside and become an avenging Amazon. She has too much compassion for women and children to leave the effects of her decisions on them out of the equation.

The GOP, if you really consider the past seven or eight years and the mistakes of G. W., has nothing to offer us on either the American economy or our foreign policy, but Hillary will still take their stand on these issues into account because she wants to unify, rather than divide, America. The Republicans cannot be trusted to do the same if they are in control.

August Book List 2016

stack of books on the dark wood background. toning. selective focus on the middle book
From a Google Image Search

My August Book List 2016 is compiled from four sources: Amazon, Publisher’s Weekly, the Independent Booksellers, and the New York Times Book Review

 

Amazon

 

Wolf Road: A Novel by Beth Lewis

Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

The Heavenly Table: A Novel by Donald Ray Pollock

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez  (NF)

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

As Good as Gone: A Novel by Larry Watson

Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Night of the Animals by Bill Broun

 

Mysteries and Thrillers

 

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Wolf Lake: A Novel by Ruth Ware

The Heavenly Table: A Novel by Donald Ray Pollock

The Castle of Kings by Oliver Potzsch

I Am No One: A Novel by Patrick Flanery

All is Not Forgotten: A Novel by Wendy Walter

How to Set a Fire and Why: A Novel by Jesse Ball

The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva

Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

 

Nonfiction

 

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese

 

Science Fiction and Fantasy

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book One by Jodi Taylor

Time Siege by Wesley Chu

The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill

 

Publisher’s Weekly

 

Wintering: A Novel by Peter Geye (Sequel to The Lighthouse Road)

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

Problems by Jade Sharma

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Magnate: The Knickerbocker Club by Joanna Shupe

The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline

One Hundred Twenty-One Days by Michele Audin (trans. by Christiana Hills)

 

July 25th

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

In Loving Memory by Winona Kent (sequel to Persistence of Memory)

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

 

Fall Books

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

 

Mystery, Thriller, Crime

 

The Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg

IQ by Joe Ide

The One Man by Andrew Gross

 

Independent Booksellers

 

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

First Come Love by Emily Griffin

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

The Cartel by Don Winslow

Last Words by Michael Koryta

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

Pond by Clair-Louise Bennett

A Hero of France by Alan Furst

The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

LaRose by Louise Eldrich

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Lily and the Octopus by Steve Rowley

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029 – 2047 by Lionel Shriver

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Zero K by Dan DeLillo

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

They May Not Mean to, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

NYT Book Review

 

July 10

 

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

She Poured Her Heart Out by Jean Thompson

 

Crime Fiction

 

The Innocents by Ace Atkins (Bk. 6)

Another One Goes Tonight by Peter Lovesey

Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker

Brighton by Michael Harvey

 

Editor’s Choice

 

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro

The Drowned Detective by Neil Jordan

Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan Neil Jordan

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

 

July 17

 

The Mandibles A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

 

Editor’s Choice

 

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard

 

July 24

 

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers

Chronicle of Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

Pond by Clair-Louise Bennett

The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

 

Crime Fiction

 

Let the Devil Out by Sarah Crichton

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

Fall From Grace by Tim Weaver

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

 

July 31, 2016

 

The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

The Death of Rex Nhongo by C B George

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Breaking Cover by Stella Remington

The Wolf of Sarajevo by Matthew Palmer

I Am No One by Patrick Flanery

City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan

Missing, Presumed by Susan Steiner

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Paradime by Alan Glynn

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakumura

The Crow Girl by Eric Axl Sund

Among the Dead and Dreaming by Samuel Ligon

Fever by Tim Baker

Judenstaat by Simon Zelitch

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

 

 

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan – Book

Sarong Party Girlbig

When I checked out what books were being published this summer I came across this novel, Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth reading or not but the description said that the author had written in Singlish, a dialect of English used in Singapore and that this was a dialect that in no way would affect my ability to read and understand this story. I am a language and word lover so that was all I needed to get me to give the book a try. I was afraid it would be some fluffy chick lit, but like the chick lit I have read, it contains deeper thoughts and redeeming qualities.

On the surface the narrator, Jazeline (Jazzy) and her friends, Imo, Fann and Sher seem quite superficial. They have been girls, like many girls in America, who go to work all week and then head out clubbing on the weekends. They are modern girls so they drink a lot, dance a lot, and they sleep around a bit. The dialect they speak in uses many references we think of as sexual and this fact alone means that this book will not suit all readers. In truth, there is no subtlety to be found in the Singapore bar scene that the Sarong Party Girls move in, which caters to every taste that men, if allowed, will indulge in, so I caution you again not to read this novel if you don’t want to learn about their world.

The story line reminds me, however, of an old American movie with the title How to Marry a Millionaire except these girls are already sexually active and they want to marry white guys (ang mohs). Still, like the women in the movie,  it is easy to like Jazeline, and to wish her well despite the rather materialistic project she is currently pursuing. Every once in a while Jazzy shows some real insight into certain realities about the treatment of women in modern Singapore (and elsewhere) by men, especially obvious if you go clubbing every weekend in a bar scene where wealthy men like to keep an entourage of young pretty women around them while they party.

The author, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, manages to stay in dialect, using the hip cadences of Singlish almost all of the time. The dialect thins out a bit when Jazzy/Cheryl shares with us her insights into things she is starting to be critical of in relation to the male-female dynamic as she begins to think about finding a partner for life, rather than just living to enjoy the weekends. She is getting too old for the clubs and she is feeling pressured to find her ang moh right now.

Here’s Jazzy/Cheryl in almost full Singlish mode:

“Aiyoh—mabuk already?” Charlie said, blinking at us one time while she pulled out her cigs from her handbag and threw them on the table. This woman was really damn action! Her eyes are quite big and pretty, so she knows that when she acts drama a bit with them, men confirm will steam when they see it. Some more she always outlines her eyes with thick thick black black pencil, so it makes them look bigger and darker, a bit like those chio Bollywood actresses. This type of move – yes is quite obvious drama, but that night, I thought to myself, Jazzy, better take notes. If you can pull this off well, it can be quite useful.”

Here’s Jazzy/Cheryl losing some Singlish as she makes a deeper point:

“The truth is, even if I felt like I could speak honestly, I didn’t know how to explain everything – or anything, really. How to tell him about a society where girls grow up watching their fathers have mistresses and second families on the side? Or one in which you find out one day that it is your mother who is the concubine and that you are the second family? A society that makes you say, when you are twelve or seventeen, ‘No matter what, when I grow up, I am never going to be the woman that tolerates that!’ But then you actually grow up and you look around, and the men who are all around you, the boys you grew up with, no matter how sweet or kind or promising they were, that somehow they have turned into men that all our fathers were and still are.”

I enjoyed this novel even more than I thought I would because it is even more like that old movie How to Marry a Millionaire than you might think. Movies of that classic film era generally contained a message, a practical moral message that passed on some wisdom from the elders in a form that was palatable to a younger generation. I did not really expect to find this in Sarong Party Girls, but it is there, along with a lot of shocking descriptions of what “fun” is like in Singapore, and it made the book worth more. It made it as Jazzy would say, quite shiok — and it is quite feminist also, without leaving men out.